There were some verbal fireworks Tuesday night at the Ulysses Firehall, as opponents and supporters of plans to build a massive wind energy plant in northern Potter County squared off, trying to sway the public on a complex issue with m u l t i – m i l l i o n dollar implications.
Most of the threehour meeting was a broadside attack on the proposal by i n t e r n a t i o n a l energy giant AES Corporation to string a series of 4 0 0 – f o o t – h i g h turbines along a wide swath of highaltitude farmland.
Bob White, project director AES, confirmed that the company is making arrangements to lease hundreds of acres on which to build the turbines. A p r e l i m i n a r y layout calls for about 80 of t h e machines o n private property i n Ulysses a n d Hector townships, but that’s subject to fine-tuning, White added.
‘NOT A GOOD
AES came under direct fire from Bob Daley, one of the founding members of “Save God’s Country,” a citizens group formed to fight the wind plant.
Daley, who is building a home in the region with intentions of retiring there, shared the results of his investigation into AES’s track record around the world. He detailed a list of environmental violations and other misdeeds.
Allowing AES to establish Potter County as a wind energy host will open the door to other exploiters, Daley warned.
“It will open the floodgates,” he said. “Every ridge and mountaintop will be scalped.”
AES’s White labeled many of Daley’s anecdotes as “patently false.” He said most issues raised during Tuesday’s meeting will be addressed when AES seeks approval for its plan from a host of r e g u l a t o r y agencies.
“We are a good corporate neighbor – it’s the way we do business – and the permitting process is a very public process,” White said.
For upwards of two hours, Save God’s Country leaders used a slide show, video and a c o o r d i n a t e d presentation from five speakers to warn of dire consequences if the AES plans goes forward.
“This calls for a decimation of our b e a u t i f u l landscape to accommodate their turbines,” said Herb Miller.
Miller challenged the argument that e l e c t r i c i t y generation from wind power will lessen the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reduce the burning of fossil fuels.
“Only threepercent of our electricity is generated from oil,” Miller said. “I want to make it very clear that we do believe in alternative energy, but this is not the answer. AES’s p r i m a r y motivation is to take advantage of the extraordinary tax credits and g o v e r n m e n t subsidies available to wind energy developers.”
One citizen in attendance, local i n s u l a t i o n contractor David Saulter, seized upon that statement.
“If they’re going to build these things, they ought to build them with their own money, and not with mine,” Saulter said.
Miller also pointed out that studies show Potter County ridges are “marginal” in wind intensity. He and others from the group accused AES of targeting the region because it lacks political clout.
IMPACT ON HEALTH
Save God’s Country cited a clinical study d o c u m e n t i n g “wind turbine syndrome,” a series of health ailments linked with exposure to the noise, vibration and shadow flicker of wind turbines.
Members also warned of declining real estate values and environmental damage from the wind plant.
Arthur Kear, another of the founders, pointed out that the group is calling on the Potter County Commissioners to enact an interim o r d i n a n c e p r o h i b i t i n g
structures taller than 250 feet while an appointed c o m m i s s i o n studies the issue and issues a recommendation. “There is time to act on an ordinance that puts this project on hold,” Kear said. “No permits have been issued or even a p p l i e d for, so an immediate act would stop this t r a g e d y f r o m happening.” S a v e G o d ‘ s Country
members Steve Sampson and David White reported on their recent visits to commercial wind energy plants in Weathersfield, N.Y., and Meyersdale, Pa.
Each claimed the wind turbines are disturbingly loud and unpopular among residents living nearby.
However, Potter County farmer Jim Hoopes, who is leasing property to AES for turbine c o n s t r u c t i o n , contested those findings.
“I’ve been to five of these places,” Hoopes said. “I’m here to tell you that they’re not noisy.”
Hoopes accused Save God’s Country members of being obstructionists out to block “something that’s good for the community.”
Two other members of the audience with no apparent ties to AES also defended the project and c o m m e n d e d Hoopes for his role in encouraging the wind plant.
An unidentified woman who lives near one of the turbine sites asked White if AES could guarantee that her family will not suffer from the health effects forecasted by SGC.
“No company would do that,” White said. “It’s too open-ended.”
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